One of the easiest ways you can improve your energy and feel more clear-headed and focused all day long is through your food choices. You might underestimate just how sluggish your granola in the morning or sandwich at lunch is making you feel. Today we’ve outlined some really simple guidelines for building more balanced meals that will benefit you in big ways from an energy standpoint (without having to skip carbs and sugar altogether!). In fact, this is a topic we feel so strongly about that we’ve created an Energy Boosting Recipe Book with 108 recipes to help you eat for energy and feel your best.
The main reason you start the morning with energy and then have a crash shortly afterward comes back to what you ate for breakfast. A high carb or sugary breakfast like cereal, toast or even most granola (which come with upwards of 3-4 tsp of sugar per serving) will spike your blood sugar levels and insulin, leading to a big dip in your blood sugar levels shortly afterward.
Plus, it’s hard to overcome cravings because your body is telling you to eat more sugar and carbs to get your energy back up! This is why willpower is actually such a small factor when it comes to cravings.
In comparison, starting your day with a breakfast that has protein and healthy fats and minimal sugar, like eggs with some spinach and avocado, or a low sugar smoothie with a scoop of protein powder and hemp seeds, will do a much better job at balancing your blood sugar levels and therefore giving you more consistent energy. Everyone's a little different - for you this might mean still having your toast, but also having eggs or a tofu scramble with it.
Knowing what you’re going to eat for breakfast ahead of time and, even better, having something made or easy to put together, will ensure that you don’t reach for something convenient and sugary when your hunger kicks in.
No matter the meal, avoiding or limiting refined and processed foods will be better for your energy and overall mood. A simple way to think about this is to swap the beige foods for colourful fruits and vegetables. For example, instead of a sandwich with whole wheat bread, try a big salad with some sweet potato or black beans. You could also have a little less bread and more protein, which you'll probably find fills you up better and keeps you fuller, longer. Instead of a plate of pasta, try spaghetti squash or a chickpea or lentil-based pasta like Chickapea or Tolerant. You’re still getting carbohydrates but not as much at one time. These foods are also full of fiber, so the carbohydrates (sugars) in those foods will release much more slowly into your bloodstream and won’t give you the same blood sugar crash. You’ll also get more vitamins and minerals in your diet, which impact your body’s ability to make energy and supports your overall mood.
Once again, make sure every meal has protein and some healthy fats so that you will stay fuller longer, have more stable blood sugar, better energy and less cravings. For example, add a portion of chicken, fish or tempeh (proteins) to your meal, along with some avocado or hemp seeds (healthy fats). Don’t forget, every main in our Energy Boosting Recipe Book follows these principles.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the same rules apply with snacking. Make sure your snack has some protein and/or fats. For example, instead of just an apple, pair your apple with some almonds or a tablespoon of natural peanut butter. The fats will keep you fuller longer and give you more steady energy. P.S. you don't need to do this every time, but if you need a snack that will give you more sustained energy, try this.
Here are two examples of what your day could look like when you’re following the steps outlined above.
Breakfast: A smoothie like the Shamrock Mint Chip Smoothie
Lunch: Salad with sweet potato and a piece of salmon
Snack: Almond Zucchini Muffin
Dinner: Chickpea pasta with Hemp Heart Pesto
Breakfast: A spinach omelette with a side of avocado
Lunch: Leftover Black Bean Burger and roast veggies
Snack: Roasted Chickpeas
Dinner: Spaghetti squash with meat sauce
Eating for energy doesn’t mean you can’t eat carbs, that all you’re eating is protein or that you can’t have any sugar. All it means is making sure your meals have a balance of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein (and fiber) and you choose the whole food versions. Keep the added sugar to a minimum and balance everything out with some protein and healthy fats.
If you’d like more recipes for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners and sides that will give you long-lasting energy all day long, try our Energy Boosting Recipe Book. It comes with over 108 recipes designed to boost your energy by balancing your blood sugar, and reduce bloating and indigestion. Every recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free.